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Hormone Replacement Therapy Q&A

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for Menopause Symptoms

Find answers to 5 common questions about hormone replacement therapy and menopause from WebMD.

1. Should I stop taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?

The answer depends on how long you've been taking hormone replacement therapy, and why.

The Women's Health Initiative found that long-term use (five or more years) of hormone replacement therapy combining two hormones, estrogen and progestin, increased women's risk of heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. The hormone replacement therapy lowered women's risk of broken bones and colorectal cancer.

The risk is very slight. To put it in numbers:

If 10,000 women were taking hormone replacement therapy for a year and 10,000 women were not taking HRT, in the HRT group eight more women would develop invasive breast cancer, seven more would develop heart disease, eight more would have a stroke, and eight more would develop blood clots. There would also be six fewer colorectal cancers and five fewer broken hips.

How do these numbers relate to your personal decision? Every woman is unique, and no one should start or stop hormone replacement therapy without consulting with her doctor. That said, here are some facts that may help you and your doctor arrive at a decision.

Menopause: Not all women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, or mood swings during menopause. Those who do have symptoms such as hot flashes usually have the symptoms for a limited amount of time. So don't panic if you need hormone replacement therapy to ease menopause symptoms for a few years. Most experts today say the benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the risk if hormones are taken for a brief period of time. But if you have been on hormone replacement therapy for several years, or if you started HRT before ever experiencing bothersome symptoms, consider talking with your doctor about tapering off the hormones. You may be surprised. The menopause symptoms you dread may not bother you at all.

Heart Disease: Women taking standard hormone replacement therapy (Prempro, Premphase, Femhrt, and Activella) to reduce the risk of heart disease should talk with their doctors about gradually discontinuing the medication. The latest research clearly indicates that hormone replacement therapy does not prevent heart disease. So why did we ever begin prescribing hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease? The practice began because observational studies found that women taking hormone replacement therapy tended to have lower rates of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and osteoporosis. It now appears, at least in terms of cardiovascular disease, that these women may simply have been healthier and more likely to see a doctor.

Osteoporosis: Research shows that hormone replacement therapy does lower a woman's risk of broken bones. If you are taking hormone replacement therapy to prevent osteoporosis, discuss your family history and treatment options carefully with your doctor. Questions to consider include:

WebMD Medical Reference

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